Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born writer who spent years in hiding after Iran urged Muslims to kill him for his writing, was stabbed in the neck and torso onstage at a lecture in upstate New York yesterday and taken to a hospital flown, the police said.
After hours of surgery, Mr Rushdie is on a ventilator and unable to speak following the attack, which has been condemned as an attack on freedom of expression by writers and politicians around the world.
“The news is not good,” wrote Andrew Wylie, his books agent, in an email.
He said: “Salman will probably lose an eye; the nerves in his arm were severed and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”
Mr Rushdie, 75, was about to give a lecture on artistic freedom to hundreds of people at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York when a man rushed onto the stage and lunged at the novelist, who has since been hung with a bounty lives in the late 1980s.
Stunned attendees helped snatch the man from Mr Rushdie, who had fallen to the ground.
A New York State Police soldier who was providing security at the event arrested the attacker.
Police identified the suspect as Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old man from Fairview, New Jersey, who bought a pass for the event.
A doctor in the audience helped tend to Mr Rushdie while emergency services arrived, police said.
Henry Reese, the event’s host, suffered a minor head injury.
Police said they are working with federal investigators to determine a motive.
You did not describe the weapon used.
Mr Rushdie, who was born in Bombay, now Mumbai, to a Kashmiri Muslim family before moving to the UK, has long faced death threats over his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses.
Some Muslims said the book contained blasphemous passages. After its release in 1988, it was banned in many countries with large Muslim populations.
A few months later, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s supreme leader at the time, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, calling on Muslims to kill the writer and anyone involved in the book’s publication for blasphemy.
Mr Rushdie, who called his novel “pretty bland,” went into hiding for almost a decade.
Hitoshi Igarashi, the novel’s Japanese translator, was assassinated in 1991.
The Iranian government said it would no longer support the fatwa in 1998, and Rushdie has lived relatively openly in recent years.
Thank you for the quick reply from @nyspolice & First Responders after today’s attack by author Salman Rushdie.
Our thoughts are with Salman and his loved ones after this terrible event. I have directed state police to further assist with the investigation if needed.
— Governor Kathy Hochul (@GovKathyHochul) August 12, 2022
Iranian organizations, some linked to the government, have put up a million-dollar bounty for Mr Rushdie’s murder.
And Khomeini’s successor as supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said as late as 2019 that the fatwa was “irrevocable”.
Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency and other news outlets donated money in 2016 to increase the bounty by $600,000.
Fars, in his account of yesterday’s attack, called Mr Rushdie an apostate who “offended the Prophet”.
Mr Rushdie published a memoir about his monastic, secret life in 2012 under a fatwa called ‘Joseph Anton’, the pseudonym he used during his British police protection.
His second novel, Midnight’s Children, won the Booker Prize.
His new novel, Victory City, is due out in February.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was appalled that Mr Rushdie was “stabbed while exercising a right we should never stop defending”.
Mr. Rushdie was at the institution in western New York to discuss how the United States is granting asylum to artists in exile and “as a home for freedom of creative expression,” according to the institution’s website.
There were no obvious security checks at the Chautauqua Institution, a landmark established in the 19th-century small lakeside town of the same name; Staff simply checked people’s passports for admission, participants said.
“I felt like we need more protection there because Salman Rushdie is not your ordinary writer,” said Anour Rahmani, an Algerian writer and human rights activist who was in the audience. “He’s a writer with a fatwa against him.”
Michael Hill, the institution’s president, said at a news conference they had a practice of working with state and local police to ensure the event’s security.
He promised the summer program would resume soon.
“Our whole goal is to help people bridge a world that is too divided,” Hill said.
“The worst thing Chautauqua could do is retire from his mission in the face of this tragedy, and I don’t think Mr. Rushdie would want that.”
Mr. Rushdie became a US citizen in 2016 and resides in New York City.
A self-proclaimed apostate Muslim and “hard-lined atheist,” he was a bitter critic of religion across the spectrum and has spoken out openly about oppression in his native India, including under the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
PEN America, a free speech advocacy group of which Mr Rushdie is a former president, said it was “shocked and horrified” at what it called an unprecedented attack on a writer in the United States.
“Salman Rushdie has been targeted for decades for his words but has never flinched or faltered,” PEN chief executive Suzanne Nossel said in the statement.
Mr Rushdie had emailed her earlier in the morning to help relocate Ukrainian writers seeking refuge, she said.
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